Those of a certain age remember that family gardens where once an integral part of planning a menu. There was a time not long ago when vegetables were seasonal: asparagus in the spring, tomatoes in the summer and squash in the fall. Today, consumers can get just about any fruit or vegetable they want at any time, but convenience isn’t always as satisfying as it initially seems.
Increasingly many homeowners are opting to return to the soil by either starting a backyard garden or working with their neighbors to set up a community garden. Gardening has many benefits that include physical activity, creation of important family time and of course providing fresh produce for the dinner table. Community associations, by way of rules and common elements, are a great venue for gardening to take root.
Setting up a garden club within your community association (HOA) provides for resident engagement. Having a group with a shared interest builds community and provides opportunities to grow future leaders. Garden clubs can lend their expertise to the tending and care of the common elements as well by offering advice or even serving as a committee to advise the board on planting decisions. Most importantly, a garden club can work with residents to assure that back yard gardens conform to the values and rules of the community. Of course, this assumes that gardening is allowed within the community. If current bylaws restrict residents the ability to garden, it may be time to think about updating rules to get ahead of generating interest in the subject.
Another option, although one that creates challenges, is setting up a community garden. A community garden is typically a plot of commonly-owned land that is available to residents for staking out small plots. Community gardens are especially popular in urban areas where open land is scarce. They are also popular in more environmentally sensitive jurisdictions where community gardens are the centerpiece of common elements.
Setting up a community garden first requires approval and work on the part of the board. The board must assure that it is within its powers to set up a garden on common areas, which by law belong to all residents. So, legal advice on the set up process is a must. Additionally, ensuring that there are clear, written rules to govern the gardening process is also a necessity. For those communities that can build a consensus and navigate the legal obstacles, community gardens create a focal point for resident interaction.
For those wanting to keep the process simple, there are other options to provide greater access to fresh produce to residents without even turning the soil. Many local farms offer share programs where an individual or group can purchase a share of the produce. Such programs offer delivery or pick up options on a weekly or by weekly basis.
This option provides residents a great way to build community. This is an especially attractive option for communities where gardening may be restricted due to yard size or community rules. The bottom line is that a little creativity and homework goes a long way to providing gardening options for community residents while still respecting the neighborhood rules.